November 2, 2001

ECAC Preview

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Sometime last week, The Sun’s editorial board locked the Sports Editor in the basement and told him not to come out until he had figured out what would happen in the ECAC this year.

He went in with three Ritz crackers and an orange Capri-Sun. He came out with this:

1. Cornell Big Red

Last Year’s Record: 16-12-5, 11-8-3 ECAC, 4th

2. Dartmouth Big Green

Last Year’s Record: 16-14-4, 10-8-4 ECAC, t-5th

Good: The Green has improved rapidly over the last few years, moving out of the ECAC cellar into a position this year when it should realistically challenge for the conference title. Last year, after Dartmouth had lost in the ECAC Final Five play-in game, its coach was nonetheless upbeat. He knew that his young team would be losing practically no one to graduation and would probably be the leading choice for the 2002 championship. Junior goalie Nick Boucher (.912 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average last year) has the potential to be fantastic. He hasn’t yet shown it yet, but then again Matt Underhill waited until his junior year to have a break-out performance.

Bad: Can Dartmouth score though? Last year, it put up about three per game. The key though, was that it outshot its opponents by more than 150 on the season. It’ll be up to senior captain Mike Maturo (18 goals, 15 assists) to translate those opportunities into more points this season.

Ugly: For some stupid reason, Dartmouth’s Web site lists a bunch of personal facts about each of the players. It makes all our lives more complete to know that Black Sheep and Tommy Boy are Boucher’s favorite movies. Sounds like he has a great sense of humor. . .oh wait.

3. Harvard Crimson

Last Year’s Record: 16-15-2, 12-8-2 ECAC, 3rd

Good: Experience and depth characterize the Crimson’s defense. Leading the crew is senior captain Peter Capouch, who made his mark last year as a two-way star, recording 14 assists and seven goals. Also back is a healthy Graham Morrell, who has been hampered by shoulder problems which have essentially benched him for the last couple of years. On offense, leading scorer Dominic Moore (15 goals, 28 assists) also returns for his senior year.

Bad: But his brother Steve (seven goals, 26 assists) is finally gone as is Chris Bala (14 goals, 16 assists).

Ugly: It’s tough to win games when you don’t have a goaltender. And that’s exactly the situation Harvard finds itself in. Oliver Jonas is gone. In his place will likely step Will Crothers who has a whopping 80 minutes of experience and sports a stellar 4.54 goals against average.

4. Clarkson Knights

Last Year’s Record: 21-11-3, 15-5-2 ECAC, 1st

Good: Clarkson must be pissed. It was their title to lose last year, and amazingly enough, they lost it in the first round of the ECAC playoffs by falling to Vermont.

Fortunately, the Knights retain the core of that squad, and boy must they be hungry for a title.

Goalie Mike Walsh returns, and he brings back some unreal numbers: .922 save percentage and a 1.86 goals against average. Also back are Matt Poapst, David Evans and Rob McFeeters, all of whom had at least 30 points last season.

In fact, the Knights led the ECAC in scoring last year (3.59 goals a game) and only lost two forwards to graduation.

Bad: The Knights lose Kent Huskins, arguably the best defenseman in the ECAC, to graduation.

Ugly: It’s not an Ivy!

5. Rensselaer Engineers

Last Year’s Record: 17-15-2, 11-9-2 ECAC, t-5th

Good: Depth is the name of the game for RPI — after all, the Engineers lose only one member of last year’s team. Returning is the sextet of Matt Murley (42 points), Jim Henkel (30), Marc Cavosie (29), Carson Butterwick (29), Jim Vickers (28) and Nolan Graham (25) — which combined for more than 60% of RPI’s offense last season. Also back is goalie Nathan Marsters who, though just a freshman last year sported a .929 save mark, which was third best in the nation.

Expect the Engineers to score…a lot. They averaged 3.15 goals a game last year.

Bad: Something doesn’t match up here. RPI had a top-notch offense and a top-tier goalie last season, and yet it could only manage a record barely above .500. Could it be the defense’s fault?

Ugly: Have you seen Troy, N.Y?

6. St. Lawrence Saints

Last Year’s Record: 20-13-4, 13-6-3 ECAC, 2nd

Good: They are the two-time defending ECAC champions, but as they say all good things must come to an end.

Bad: Everybody’s gone…literally. Top scorers Mike Gellard(57 points) and Erik Anderson (51 points) — gone. Goaltenders Jeremy Symington and Sean Coakley — gone. They averaged 3.43 goals a game last year (and 3.77 in ECAC play). But the Saints will have to look to senior leaders forward Russ Bartlett (43 points) and defenseman Ray DiLauro (14 points) to fill the scoring vacuum.

If anything’s going to let the Saints down this season, it’ll probably be their goaltending. Junior Tim Hall is the only one of last year’s trifecta to return, and he only got 9:20 in goal. The empty net (5:57) got almost as much time as he did.

Ugly: Have you seen Canton, N.Y.?

7. Union Skating Dutchmen

Last Year’s Record: 12-18-4, 8-12-2 ECAC, t-9th

Good: Union can’t seriously claim to have any stars — their top scorer last year had a laughable 22 points. But what the Dutchmen do have is breadth on offense. In 2000-2001, 11 players had at least 10 points. Leading the way this season should be Jeff Wilson, Chris Simard and Kris Goodjohn, who all had at least 20 points last year.

Bad: Each preseason goaltender Brandon Snee is mentioned among the best in the ECAC. And each year, he manages to disappoint. Last season was no different, as he gave up 3.11 goals a game. He gets one more try this year.

Ugly: Union averaged 18.53 penalty minutes a game last year. . .bunch of thugs.

8. Yale Bulldogs

Last Year’s Record: 14-6-1, 10-11-1 ECAC, 8th

Strengths: Nick Deschenes and Luke Earl — 37 and 27 points, respectively, last year — will have to carry the scoring load.

Bad: Jeff Hamilton was probably the most prolific offensive player in the country last year — he had 23 goals and 32 assists in just 31 games. That’s 1.77 points a contest for all you math majors — tops in the nation, making him a serious candidate for the Hobey Baker. Now comes the “but”. But he graduated. Worse, Yale’s second-leading scorer, Ben Stafford (46 points), is also gone.

The Bulldogs also gave up 3.68 goals a game last season. Much of the credit for that wonderful stat can go to now senior goaltender Dan Lombard, who had a not so hot .881 save percentage.

Ugly: The Ivy League title in men’s hockey means next to nothing in terms of prestige. I hope Yale enjoyed winning it last year.

9. Vermont Catamounts

Last Year’s Record: 14-18-2, 8-12-2 ECAC

Good: UVM made the first round of the ECAC playoffs mildly exciting last spring by knocking top-seeded Clarkson out of the tournament.

Bad: Keep reading.

Ugly: Two years ago, thanks to something called the elephant walk (please, please don’t ask), UVM became the laughingstock of the ECAC. By hazing their freshmen, the Catamounts were thrown out of league play for most of the 1999-2000 season. But apparently, Catamounts have short mem
ories because they’re at it again! Returning leading goal scorer Graham Mink was recently arrested — for manslaughter. He faces up to 15 years in prison. What more can you say?

10. Princeton Tigers

Last Year’s Record: 10-16-5, 9-9-4 ECAC, 7th

Good: Princeton was by no means good last season. Just take a look at its special teams: 17% on the power play and 79% on the penalty kill. . .pretty awful stuff. But somehow it found a way to finish seventh in the ECAC. That’s because the Tigers’ top scorers didn’t bother to actually play in non-conference games, saving up their strength for ECAC contests. Leading scorers Kirk Lamb and Chris Corrinet had 31 and 25 points, respectively. But they only scored three and two in non-conference games. That’s truly a brilliant strategy. I guess that’s why they go to Princeton.

Bad: Let’s see if Princeton can do that again this year without departed Lamb, Corrinet and Shane Campbell (who had 23 points). Goalie Dave Stathos will have to get on track if the Tigers want to do anything: last year, he gave 3.06 goals a game.

Ugly: Say it loud, say it proud: Princeton’s in New Jersey.

11. Colgate Raiders

Last Year’s Record: 10-20-4, 8-13-1 ECAC, 11th

Good: Being the good samaritans that they are up in Hamilton, Colgate dropped the “Red” from its nickname. Unfortunately, political correctness doesn’t win you games.

Bad: Having your top goaltender return for his senior year would usually be considered a good thing. But is it good if he gave up nearly 3.50 goals a game last season?

On the scoring front, the Raiders lost their top two scorers Sean Nolan and Corey Murphy. Junior Scooter Smith (who was third on the scoring chart last season) will have to pick up the slack.

Ugly: Colgate has played four games so far this season. It’s been outscored 27-7, including 8-0 and 9-0 losses to Minnesota.

12. Brown Bears

Last Year’s Record: 4-21-4, 2-16-4 ECAC, 12th

Good: If nothing else, Brown has my deepest sympathy. How long have the Bears been at the bottom of the ECAC? Since the Berlin Wall came down?

As head coach Roger Grillo said on the Brown athletic Web site, “We have no place to move in the league but up.” For simple sentimental value, I will throw away my journalistic integrity and say that I hope Brown makes it to the playoffs.

But there’s good news though! Next year, the ECAC is changing its playoff format and allowing all 12 of its teams into the postseason. That means Brown has to make it into the playoffs. . .right?

Well, if the Bears have visions of playoffs swishing around their head, they’ll have to get there on the shoulders of goalie Brian Eklund, who gave up 3.43 goals per game last year. Much of the Bears’ defense is back too.

Bad: If Brown wins games, it won’t be because of offense. Last year, it couldn’t even score two goals a game in conference play AND in the off-season, it lost its top three scorers. Poor Brown.

Ugly: Their leading returning scorer is Paul Esdale, a defenseman. They’re screwed.

Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj